CONCORD — Longtime GOP stalwart Wayne MacDonald has announced he will not seek reelection as chairman of the state Republican Party, clearing the way for Trump supporter Stephen Stepanek, who formally announced his bid for the position two weeks ago.

Stepanek will likely become the 12th GOP chairman in New Hampshire since 2001 when the votes are cast at the party convention in January.

MacDonald has stepped in to serve as chairman at various intervals in the party’s history.

Last summer he agreed to serve the remaining months on the term of Chairman Jeanie Forrester, who abruptly resigned in June to take a job in local government.

On Tuesday, MacDonald said he would not seek a full two-year term of his own at the party convention on Jan. 26.

“When I became chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee for the third time on July 1, 2018, I recalled what an honor it is,” he said. “I also remembered, however, what a challenge it is.”

MacDonald says when he took over the state GOP committee had only $650 in its checking account, with $15,000 in outstanding bills and $48,000 in debt.

“Thanks to the hard work of Executive Director Todd Cheewing and Communications Director Joe Sweeney, Finance Chairman Jim Morgan and various county and city chairmen and generous donors and party leaders, we dug our way out of this deep hole,” MacDonald said.

Since then the debt has been reduced to $10,000, and an aggressive effort was launched for the November election.

“While the results of Nov. 6 do not reflect all of this, it is important to remember that most of this planning and implementation occurred in 129 days,” said MacDonald.

In announcing his candidacy, Stepanek said the party needs to rebuild, and the outgoing chairman agrees.

“New Hampshire Republicans have a long and challenging road to travel these next two years in order to return as the majority party of our great state,” said MacDonald. “I intend to be part of that effort. After 42 years of involvement and having had the opportunity to serve the party at every level, I don’t intend to stop now.”

Other than Stepanek, the leading candidates to replace MacDonald were political strategist Michael Biundo and former NHGOP vice chair Matt Mayberry, both of whom withdrew from the race recently.

WNTK conservative radio talk show host Keith Hanson has expressed interest in the position, and on Monday criticized Stepanek in a tweet, calling him “Status Quo Steve.”

“(He) will drive the remaining death nails into the coffin of the NHGOP,” according to Hanson. “Lack of insight, inured to the actual issues the party faces, and an ego-driven agenda will facilitate Dem wins in 2020.”

Gov. Chris Sununu, the de facto head of the Republican Party in the state, said MacDonald provided steady leadership in the run-up to the election.

“He had to step up to take on a tough challenge, served admirably, and I sincerely hope Wayne stays involved in the years ahead — the Republican Party is better off with Wayne MacDonald at the table.”

dsolomon@unionleader.com